Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/08/06MANILA3565.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA3565 2006-08-25 09:15 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003565

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS PHUM RP
SUBJECT: 2006 ARROYO IMPEACHMENT DEAD; MOVING FORWARD ON A “PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE”

¶1. (SBU) Summary: On August 24, the House of
Representatives voted 173-32 to uphold its own justice
committee report recommending the dismissal of this year’s
impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo. Most politicians and observers had long viewed the
outcome as a foregone conclusion, but the Opposition was
determined to make its case against the President publicly
again. Support for impeachment dwindled, apparently in part
due to extensive lobbying from Malacanang and alleged
selective refusal to release Congressional “pork barrel”
funds to impeachment supporters in the run-up to May 2007
elections. The result should leave the President in a
stronger political position. Supporters of a “people’s
initiative” on Constitutional change now claim to have
sufficient signatures nationwide to justify a plebiscite
under the 1987 Constitution, but neither the Commission on
Elections or the Supreme Court is likely to go along. End
summary.

¶2. (U) Following a 17-hour session throughout the night of
August 23/24, the House of Representatives voted 173-32 to
uphold its own justice committee report recommending the
dismissal of this year’s impeachment complaint against
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as expected. Members of
Congress from both the pro-Administration and Opposition
sides called the impeachment effort an “exercise in futility”
or a “foregone conclusion,” but Opposition members insisted
publicly and privately that it was important to raise
concerns about the legitimacy of the President’s 2004 victory
again and to seek accountability. Much of the debate in the
Committee hearing as well as on the plenary floor focused on
the admissibility of several boxes of alleged additional
evidence, which the Committee rejected. Most of the voting
Members used their right to a three minute explanation of
vote, many with an eye of publicity for their expected May
2007 re-election campaigns. Star orators in favor of
impeachment included Congressmen Alan Peter Cayetano and
Francis “Chiz” Escudero (both of whom may seek Senate seats)
as well as party list representative “Teddy” Casino.
Observers gave low marks to Speaker Jose de Venecia’s
remarks, in which he may another predictable pitch for
charter change and stressed that parliamentary systems do not
waste time on impeachments.

¶3. (SBU) At least 78 votes, or 1/3 of the House membership,
would have been necessary to send an impeachment complaint to
the Senate for a trial. This year, the pro-impeachment lobby
only got 32 votes, down from 51 on the impeachment vote last
year. At least 13 Congressmen allegedly agreed to change
their votes from a year ago in order to obtain Congressional
“pork barrel” funding, currently held up by the
Administration. There were allegations that, even on the
verge of the voting, representatives from the Presidential
Legislative Liaison Office were distributing brown envelopes
stuffed not with cash but with promises to release specific
amounts of funds, in exchange for support in blocking the
impeachment motion. Several Congressmen used their
explanation of vote to detail the infrastructural and other
projects they had succeeded in bringing to their districts.

¶4. (SBU) After the vote, Speaker de Venecia urged members
to end “poisonous, disruptive politics” and to assist the
Administration in solving the country’s problems.
Presidential political advisor Gabriel Claudio said that the
President is “thankful” to Congress and is now “extending the
hand of reconciliation.” House Minority Leader Escudero
nonetheless publicly congratulated his colleagues who voted
to impeach “despite the odds.” Presidential son and
Congressman Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo tried to shake the
hands of former Arroyo Cabinet members (from the Hiatt 10
group that resigned en masse in July 2005) Teresita “Ging”
Deles and Dinky Soliman in the public gallery after the vote,
but they refused and later said “without repentance, no sense
looking for forgiveness.” They and others still predict
another impeachment effort in 2007; no more than one
impeachment is possible against a single individual within a
one-year period.

¶5. (SBU) On August 25, multisectoral organizations “Sigaw
ng Bayan,” the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines
(ULAP), and the Advocacy Commission (Ad-Com) jointly filed a
“people’s initiative” petition calling for Charter change
with the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC),
claiming they had succeeded in obtaining signatures of the
Constitutionally-required twelve percent of total registered
voters, including at least three percent in each legislative
district. (Makati City, under anti-Arroyo Mayor Binay, was

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the last hold out.) COMELEC Chairman Abalos privately told
Pol/C that COMELEC would have to decline to act on the
petition absent a new Supreme Court decision reversing a 1998
decision prohibiting COMELEC involvement until Congress
passed enabling legislation related to such initiatives.
Leaders of the “One Voice” NGO opposing the “people’s
initiative” confirmed to poloffs that they intend to bring
the issue to the Supreme Court again in order to block the
current effort, although they support calls for a
constitutional convention to discuss and approve a new
constitution.

¶6. (SBU) Comment: While there was never much likelihood
that the impeachment effort would prosper more than in 2005,
this overwhelming Congressional vote should leave President
Arroyo and her supporters in a stronger political position
and enable them to focus more fully on policy priorities. It
seems unlikely at this point that the “people’s initiative”
will go very far or very fast; there is no sense of genuine
momentum or true popular support, despite the apparently
successful signature campaign.
Jones

   

 

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